How to Help

“When one person helps another it can be such a joyful, profoundly satisfying cooperative experience. I wish to distinguish such a positive helping experience from the unpleasant and destructive experiences which I call ‘rescues’.” ~ Claude Steiner

Helping a friend or loved one who has experienced sexual assault or other sexual misconduct can be very difficult. Often, our first reaction is to try to solve all their problems and rescue them from the pain of the assault. Unfortunately, this kind of rescuing takes away a survivor’s power to help oneself and to gain control, and makes the survivor feel even more helpless.

Here are some suggestions on how to help without creating further victimization:

  • Believe what a person tells you about their sexual assault or abuse. Listen, do not judge.

  • Offer to assist the person in getting to a safe place, both physically and emotionally.

  • Reinforce that the assault was not their fault. Many survivors of sexual assault blame themselves. Reassure them that they are not to blame. The perpetrator is completely responsible for the assault.

  • Be patient and understanding. Survivors have their own timetable for recovery.

  • Accept their choice of solution to the assault — even if you disagree with what they have chosen to do. It is more important that they feel empowered to make choices and take back control than it is for you to impose what you think is the “right” decision.

  • Let the person know that there are resources to help them. Western’s Consultation and Sexual Assault Support (CASAS) is a confidential, safe resource for students on Western’s campus who are survivors of violence.

  • Remember to take care of yourself! Dealing with the sexual assault of a friend or loved one can be hard on your health as well. If you, as the helper, need someone to talk to, CASAS is available to help.